Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel: a Warner welcome

Venue: Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel, Wales
Date: 09 Oct 2015 - 11 Oct 2015

GTOs on the trip

Pictured: Group Leisure readers on a garden lodge balcony.

Sarah Holt accompanied GTOs from all over the UK to spend a weekend at Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel.

Since it was built in the middle of the 15th century, Bodelwyddan Castle has served many purposes. It was originally a manor house, turned into a status symbol for the Williams family, became a recuperation hospital for wounded soldiers, and was then used as a school for girls.

Today, the Grade II listed building is home to a Warner Leisure hotel. But, true to its roots, its function is still never the same twice. The hotel offers a different experience depending on who visits – as I and a group of Group Leisure readers discovered on a recent Reader Club familiarisation.

Of course, first impressions of Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel are probably the same no matter who you are. You access the castle hotel along a Spirograph of a path. First glimpses are of the hotel’s turrets, trussed up amongst the apple-peel green countryside of Denbighshire.

The hotel exterior

Pictured: the turrets of Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel.

But once you’re inside, no visit is the same. Our Reader Club group arrived at Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel at midday on a Friday and, after a lazy lunch, we embarked on a garden tour. Guided tours of the gardens are an option for any group staying at the hotel, but even these can be tailored to suit what your party is interested in.

The castle has more than 20 acres of grounds and formal gardens, including four separate seasonal gardens, a maze and a heated walled garden, which was designed to grow things like apricots, peaches and figs. Before they visit, groups can talk to head of grounds Sue Marie Roberts about what they want to learn on a tour. Workshops like garden decoration making can even be added to experiences.

On our trip, we were shown around the walled garden and autumn garden while Sue explained their history and gave an insight into how different plants thrived. Some Group Leisure readers were offered cuttings to take home and I got to try one of the mulberries that grow in the grounds, which tasted like a cross between a blackberry and a pomegranate.

Trees

Pictured: the surrounding green countryside of Denbighshire.

After exploring the grounds, we were taken on a tour of the hotel’s other facilities. And it’s here that the diversity of the place really comes into its own. Thanks to the£6 million refurbishment that took place earlier this year, the hotel now has a roulette’s variety of places to sit and enjoy something to eat or drink. New for 2015 was the Mulberry Lounge, which serves light meals like Welsh rarebit and homity pie alongside paninis, soup and sandwiches. Antler light fittings crown the walls, lamp stands are made from driftwood, and suitcases stand in for sideboards.

The Atrium is another new feature. You can sit here and nurse a frothy coffee or the cocktail of the day – something else that changed regularly – or order something to eat from the same menu as you get in the Mulberry Lounge. The interior design here was a talking point on our trip. You can sit in a giant bird cage and read the paper or sit close to a driftwood tree, home to a talking cat no less.

In terms of activities, there’s a gym, spa, pool room, activity room, theatre, rifle shooting range, archery area, and countless gaming greens where you can try everything from croquet to quoits – all things we would get a better idea of later in the trip.

At this point on day one, though, it was time to retire to our accommodation, which – as you might expect by now – came in a few different guises. My room was one of the new garden lodges, a ten minute walk from the reception of the hotel.

The 45 new garden lodges are built in an amphitheatre-style across six two-storey blocks. In the centre of the area there are fountains and ponds, which you can hear babbling from your balcony or terrace.

Graden lodges

Pictured: the garden lodges.

In my room I found calming blue colour schemes, locally-sourced textiles, Celtic fabric designs, fluffy robes and one huge mallowey bed. I could have cocooned myself up in there for the weekend if there hadn’t been anything else planned on the itinerary. But there was, so at 7pm I re-joined the rest of the group for dinner at St David’s restaurant.

Once again, choice is the watchword here. You can pick between serving yourself at the hot buffet stations at the heart of the restaurant or you can choose from the a la carte options.

After dinner we moved through to the Gallery Bar of the theatre to watch a Tom Jones tribute act. Groups can arrange to reserve their own areas here in advance, so they can sit together. Although, on our trip, sit wasn’t quite the right verb.

GTOs dancing

Pictured: GTOs enjoyed the evening entertainment.

By the time Tom sang Delilah, the whole group were up on their feet. As some of the GTOs in our party hit the dancefloor to the house party band, I snuck off to bed.  

Day two of our trip came with more choices. Some of our party got in their cars and went off to discover the area – Bodnant Gardens, Tweedmill Shopping Outlet and Llandudno were just a few of the places our readers visited.

I chose to stay behind and experience the activity programme on offer at the hotel. This schedule changes every day and includes everything from Walk a Mile with Warner and a morning quiz to Foot Golf and a line dancing workshop. At other Warner hotels you can try things like zorbing.

Rifle shooting

Pictured: Rifle shooting was just one of the activities on offer.

I joined the rifle shooting and archery sessions before visiting the leisure club for a dip in the bath water-warm pool.

At 7pm, we met for drinks and dinner again, where the menu had changed from the night before. After dinner entertainment kept it Welsh for a second evening and came in the form of a Shirley Bassey tribute act.

On the Sunday, I got up early hoping for a glimpse of the white stag that wanders the hotel’s grounds in the morning. I didn’t get to see him. Maybe if I return to the hotel I will do, because one thing’s for sure; the experience I have next time will be different to this one, because that is what Warner Leisure Hotels does best.

For more informatio call 0330-100 9772 or visit www.warnerhotels.co.uk/groups.

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